Seven

A small hatch in the door opened and a female face appeared.

"Yes?"

"I would like a room for the night."

She hesitated.

"I'm on an errand for Jarvik. He recommended your inn to me. Here, let me show you his letter."

I unstrapped my back pack, took out the letter and handed it to her through the hatch.

She took it and disappeared for a while. Then the door opened and she stepped aside to let me in, handing back the letter.

"You don't look like a law-man to me."

"I'm not. He's just asked me to do this thing for him."

"Ah," she said. "You're one of those."

I followed her in, across the empty court yard. On one side of the court yard there were stables. There was an old man cleaning them, though all the stalls were unoccupied. Then we reached the other end of the court yard, and through an open door we entered the inn's main room. It looked well-maintained and comfortable, and it was completely empty.

I ended up having dinner with her and the old man, who turned out to be her grandfather. The girl was probably in her late teens, though the weary look on her face made her look older. Neither seemed very talkative, and they only showed some enthusiasm when I mentioned Jarvik. They both seemed to hold him in great esteem. The girl never explained what she meant by "one of those".

After dinner was finished the girl showed me to my room.

She hesitated at the door. "I I hope you'll sleep well", she said.

"Thank you. I trust I will."

She left the room and closed the door behind her.

The room was dark, except for a night light floating in a bowl on the night stand. I undressed, and stretched out on the bed. I folded my hands behind my head and stared at the ceiling. It took me a long time to fall asleep.

"What took you so long?"

I was standing on a snow-covered mountain slope. A few feet away from me was Agromas, the master storyteller who had taught me. His hair was longer and his face more gaunt than I remembered. He was wearing his storyteller's cloak, it's decorations far more intricate than the ones on mine. I had last seen him before I got married and I wondered whether seeing him here meant he had died.

"There's been a war. I've been busy."

"You should have made time."

There was nothing I could say to that.

"I'm sorry about your wife and son."

"Are they here? Do you know where they are?"

He looked at me with infinite sadness. "You know I can't tell you that. I'm sorry."

We were quiet.

I looked down and I could see the inn, but it seemed different from how I'd seen it earlier today.

"You're seeing it as it was more than seventy years ago. Not all of it had been built by then."

"Why am I here?"

"You need to see this. There's something you need to do."



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